KDSM-TV, virtual channel 17 (UHF digital channel 16), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Des Moines, Iowa, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. KDSM-TV's studios are located on Fleur Drive (IA 5) in Des Moines, and its transmitter is located in Alleman, Iowa. On cable, the station is available on Mediacom channel 6 in standard definition and digital channel 817 in high definition.
Prior history of UHF channel 17 in Des Moines
Central Iowa's second television station, KGTV, signed-on in 1953 airing an analog signal on UHF channel 17. At the time, all four networks were shoehorned on WOI-TV. KGTV was plagued by financial problems from the start. The Des Moines market is fairly large geographically, and at the time UHF signals didn't travel very far across long distances. It did not help that very few television sets had UHF capability at the time. As a result, while KGTV should have logically taken the NBC affiliation, that network opted to keep its secondary affiliation with WOI-TV.
The death knell for the station sounded a few months after it went on the air, when Palmer Communications, owner of WHO-AM-FM, won a construction permit for WHO-TV (channel 13). As WHO had been an NBC radio affiliate for almost 30 years, it was a foregone conclusion that WHO-TV would take the NBC affiliation. Channel 17 went dark April 15, 1955. The KGTV calls now reside on the ABC affiliate in San Diego, California.
Analog UHF channel 17 remained silent until 3:27 p.m. on March 7, 1983 when independent station KCBR (known as "The Great Entertainer") signed-on for "testing" purposes. Normal operations began on March 14, 1983. It was Iowa's first independent station, as well as the first new commercial station in Central Iowa since KRNT-TV (now KCCI) signed-on 28 years earlier. The call letters were picked from the first names of the three original owners: Carl Goldsberry, Bill Trout, and Ray Gazzo. Goldsberry was a Northwestern Bell yellow pages sales representative, while Trout and Gazzo were partners in the Des Moines law firm of Coppola Trout Taha & Gazzo. Trout and Gazzo's law partner, Joe Coppola, bought a stake in the station when it needed a cash infusion.
The station was sold to Richard L. Duchossois, a Chicago businessman, in 1986. Duchossois changed the station's call letters to KDSM-TV ("KDSM" is the IATA airport code for Des Moines International Airport) on January 17 and later that year, it became one of the charter affiliates of Fox. In 1987, KDSM won the rights to televise University of Iowa basketball games, coaches shows and football replays. The station carried Iowa Hawkeyes basketball along with Big Ten Conference football and basketball until those games left syndication due to the creation of the Big Ten Network in 2007. KDSM came under the ownership of River City Broadcasting in 1991. In 1996, River City merged with the station's current owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group. On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including KDSM-TV, allowing them to continue to carry the network's programming through 2017.
Proposed sale to Standard Media
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair entered into an agreement to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media – which has owned WHO-TV since December 2013 – for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Because Sinclair and Tribune each owned two television stations in the Des Moines market, and WHO and KDSM both ranking among the market's four highest-rated stations in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell one of the two outlets to an independently-operated station owner in order to comply with FCC local ownership rules. On April 24, 2018, in an amendment to the Tribune acquisition through which it proposed the sale of certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies to curry the DOJ's approval, Sinclair announced that it would sell KDSM and eight other stations – Sinclair-operated KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, WRLH-TV in Richmond, WOLF-TV (along with LMA partners WSWB and WQMY) in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and WXLV-TV in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, and Tribune-owned WPMT in Harrisburg and WXMI in Grand Rapids – to Standard Media Group (an independent broadcast holding company formed by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving the aforementioned stations) for $441.1 million. The transaction includes a transitional services agreement, through which Sinclair would have continued operating KDSM for six months after the sale's completion.
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Standard Media's purchases of KDSM and the other six Tribune- and Sinclair-operated stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
From mid-2006 until the end of that year, KDSM 17.2 carried The Tube Music Network; after that was dropped due to conflicts between Sinclair and the network, 17.2 ran a simulcast of 17.1 (The Tube was eventually shut down on October 1, 2007). On October 4, 2010, 17.2 began carrying a similar music video network called TheCoolTV and continued to carry that network until the afternoon of August 31, 2012 when Sinclair dropped that network on all of its stations that carried the network nationwide; from then on until July 1, 2014 when 17.2 was reactivated as an affiliate of the classic movie network GetTV, 17.2 remained vacant. GetTV was replaced by Comet on October 31, 2015. Through a separate deal between Sinclair and The Country Network (now ZUUS Country), KDSM activated 17.3 to begin carrying that network on March 16, 2011, and was replaced with the male-oriented Grit on December 29, 2014. On February 28, 2017, Grit was replaced on 17.3 by the Sinclair owned Charge! network. KDSM added a fourth subchannel on February 13, 2017, affiliated with the Sinclair-owned TBD network.
KDSM-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 17, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 16. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 17.
Sinclair/Mediacom retransmission disputes
At midnight on January 6, 2007, Sinclair pulled KDSM from Mediacom systems in Central Iowa, including those in Des Moines and Ames, as part of Mediacom's ongoing retransmission dispute with Sinclair. As a result, KDSM began offering $150 rebates (payable as $10 monthly bill credits) for Mediacom subscribers to switch to DirecTV during that time period. Mediacom offered free dipole antennas to subscribers and aired programming from other cable networks in KDSM's place during the impasse. The dispute also affected KFXA in Cedar Rapids, which is operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement. It attracted attention from lawmakers in Iowa and in Washington, D.C.. Finally, on February 2, Mediacom announced that it had signed a retransmission consent agreement with Sinclair. KDSM was restored to Mediacom systems shortly after the announcement.
The dispute was renewed in late-2009 and threatened to have the station removed from Mediacom once again. The deal that was reached in 2007 expired on December 31, 2009. As before, the dispute affected KFXA as well. Mediacom is the largest cable company in Iowa, and the dispute would have left more than half the state unable to watch the 2010 Orange Bowl set to air on Fox with the local favorite Iowa Hawkeyes football team playing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. On December 31, Sinclair and Mediacom agreed to an extension of the retransmission contract until January 8, 2010; thus averting a blackout of the Orange Bowl on cable systems. A week later, the two sides agreed to a one-year retransmission agreement.
Syndicated programming on KDSM includes The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, The People's Court, and Judge Mathis among others. From January 2012 to 2015, KDSM aired the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz on weekdays from 6 until 8 (tape-delayed by an hour). Until the 2019 season, KDSM served as the Central Iowa affiliate for Chicago Cubs games carried by ABC owned-and-operated station WLS-TV.
On March 4, 2001, KDSM debuted a nightly half-hour prime time newscast produced by sister station CBS affiliate KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids. Known as Fox 17 News at 9, it originated from KGAN's studios on Old Marion Road Northeast in Cedar Rapids and featured the majority of that station's on-air personnel. Due to a lack of news personnel locally based out of KDSM's facility, regionalized news coverage and statewide weather forecasts were provided during the show. In 2002, for the convenience of Eastern Iowa viewers, the program was added through a simulcast to fellow Fox affiliate and sister outlet KFXA (which is housed with KGAN). The production was subsequently renamed Fox News at 9 and its format remained the same for the most part although Eastern Iowa coverage from KGAN reporters were added.
On September 2, 2008, NBC affiliate WHO-DT (then owned by Local TV; then formerly acquired outright by Tribune Broadcasting, now owned by Nexstar Media Group) entered into a news share agreement with KDSM. The big three station then began producing a Des Moines-based prime time newscast known as Channel 13 News at Nine on Fox 17. Originating from WHO-DT's primary set at its facilities on Grand Avenue in Downtown Des Moines (with separate duratrans indicating the Fox show), this program currently airs for an hour on weeknights and thirty minutes on weekends. Although KDSM shares most of WHO-DT's on-air team, this outlet maintains a separate news anchor on weeknights. Unlike other outsourced news arrangements at Sinclair-owned television stations, this outlet uses the same music package and graphics scheme as seen on the NBC affiliate.
On April 22, 2009, WHO-DT became the second station in Des Moines to air all in-studio news in 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen. Although not truly high definition, broadcasts matched the aspect ratio of HD television screens. The KDSM shows were not included in this specific change. On May 19, 2010, WHO-DT upgraded further to full high definition local newscasts. However, the prime time broadcasts on this channel were not initially included due to KDSM's lack of an HD master control facility at its separate studios. As a result, the newscasts were still seen in pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition. At some point in December 2010, this station finally underwent a master control upgrade and began offering local programming in HD including Channel 13 News at Nine on Fox 17.